Bluegrass has a popular fan base that follows it and is diverse as the music and musicians that form the bluegrass scene. This genre has many defining characteristics, from the instruments to the vocal arrangements that make it quite unique.
It is true that many country, folk and blues fans enjoy this typically American form of music, but it has evolved over the years to attract a much wider audience. In this blog we look at some of the giants that have made bluegrass music over the decades and how their styles and playing differ from each other.
It is doubtful if bluegrass music would have even existed without its founder Bill Monroe; in fact, his band The Bluegrass Boys coined the very name Bluegrass. Way back in the 1940’s the Bluegrass Boys blended the sound of blues with country in a string band format and added a sprinkling of jazz. The sound was so unique and powerful that it took America by storm. Highly prominent of Bill Monroe’s style was the driving fiddle which was at the very heart of the music.
Flatt & Scruggs
If Bill Monroe was the father of bluegrass music, then it was Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt that made it a household name to millions of people. Earl Scruggs banjo playing linked the instrument to the bluegrass genre as his odd three finger strumming style had never been seen before. Flatt and Scruggs took bluegrass out of the mountains and put it in American homes via the television, and they became the most commercially successful bluegrass combo of all time. They featured in the music from hit films, such as Bonnie & Clyde, to popular TV shows, like The Beverly Hillbillies.
Alongside the stringed instruments, vocal harmonies have always played a major part of bluegrass music which defined the High Lonesome as a bluegrass form of singing. Harmonies sound best in bluegrass when these brothers are singing them, they seem to have an innate ability to sing perfectly together and comes so naturally. The Osborne Brothers together with Roscoe Holcomb were credited with developing the High Lonesome and the High Lead.
Hartford is known as one of the most talented musicians that bluegrass has ever seen, just as comfortable on a fiddle as a banjo, and everything in between. John Hartford grew up in bluegrass country and his musical style reflects this. John was truly a one-man band and could perform solo or as part of an ensemble and always with a 1970’s version of hippie bluegrass.
New Grass Revival
Following on from our former name John Hartford, New Grass Revival have drawn many influences from the virtuoso’s style. New Grass Revival look the part; to be crude about it, they look like raggedly mountain men and have a great hippy following from all their festival appearances. They take old established rock n’ roll songs and give them the bluegrass treatment, with long instrumental jams in every song. In part two we look at even more bluegrass bands, from classic old traditional ones to new kids on the block.